15 Oct Kerwin Brown Shares His Experience At The Women’s Bakery In Rwanda
In May of 2020, Kerwin Brown accompanied BEMA member Eric Riggle of Rademaker on a visit to Women’s Bakery in Rwanda. We asked Kerwin to share a few thoughts about the trip, how he learned of the Women’s Bakery, and BEMA’s future involvement with the organization.
Q: How Did You Learn About The Women’s Bakery?
A: Last fall I was introduced to Markey Culver, CEO of the Women’s Bakery, at IBA in Munich. Eric Riggle of Rademaker introduced us, as Rademaker was already a corporate sponsor of The Women’s Bakery. After hearing Markey’s story, I was impacted by her journey, the growth of the organization, and the impact they were having using bread as a catalyst to change lives in Rwanda.
Q: Why Did BEMA Get Involved With The Women’s Bakery?
A: BEMA’s initial involvement was helping The Women’s Bakery form connections within the baking industry, since connecting our members with industry leaders is a central theme of what BEMA does. At IBA and then at various industry events, we had the opportunity to introduce Markey to quite a few BEMA members, as well as other industry contacts.
In June, at BEMA’s Annual Conference in Vail, Colorado, we invited Markey to serve as our keynote speaker at the Family Breakfast.
Markey shared the story of The Women’s Bakery, how it was founded, and the stories of the women the organization has impacted.
The purpose and message truly resonated with the BEMA audience.
Q: You Visited The Bakeries In Rwanda Earlier This Year, What Was Your Experience?
A: I combined a member visit to Rademaker in the Netherlands, hosted by Eric Riggle, with a trip to Rwanda to see the bakeries firsthand.
In planning for the trip, Eric and I asked Markey if we could see all three bakeries, meet the women working in the bakeries and the staff. We took full advantage of the time seeing the operation, sitting in production meetings, and even rolling dough.
I think the interaction put the women at ease and allowed them to share some of their stories with us. We also were able to deliver a gift of new baking pans courtesy of another BEMA member, Mike Cornelis of American Pan.
Q: What Was Your Biggest Takeaway From Your Time In Rwanda?
I would say the stories of how the women’s lives have been transformed by working at The Women’s Bakery.
I also enjoyed seeing the pride the women had in their work and the products they were making. The organization employs some of the most vulnerable women in their communities and hearing how their lives have been changed through employment and education was powerful.
During our visit I heard two central themes – 1) That The Women’s Bakery defines poverty as the absence of choice and 2) That education cannot be taken away.
It’s clear that The Women’s Bakery is giving these women access to education and an opportunity to earn a real wage along with healthcare. By doing that, the organization is not only changing the lives of these women, but also profoundly changes the lives of their children and their communities.
How Has BEMA’s Involvement Helped The Women’s Bakery?
After Markey’s presentation at BEMA’s Annual Convention in June, Eric Riggle represented the BEMA board by presenting our financial gift for the purchase of a hardbody delivery vehicle to The Women’s Bakery.
Since that time, The Women’s Bakery has purchased the vehicle and we recently received an update from Kigali.
In the update, Hillary Hilsabeck, Director of Operations in Kigali said:
“In just one week of using the hardbody, we quadrupled our production in Kigali, and with a second donated hardbody, doubled our production in Gicumbi. This has also increased morale amongst the team and provided a way to sell bread during the rainy season. We cannot thank BEMA enough for your generosity and the impact you are having on business and the women.
Thanks again for your support and investment in The Women’s Bakery!”
To learn more about The Women’s Bakery and to support their mission, visit www.womensbakery.com along with the links to the three bakeries we visited in Rwanda.